Photography with Jeanna Hayes

I have an admission... I am a complete art nerd. I've always loved anything to do with design, painting, art history, etc. When I was growing up, heaven to me was a blank piece of paper and a box of colored pencils. So naturally one of my very favorite classes in college was my drawing class. The instructor once told us, "The first line you draw is actually the fifth." He was referring to the fact that the first four "lines" are the edges of the paper, so as a result we needed to be careful where we place our drawing. This bit of knowledge actually translates really well over to the camera, having to do with cropping and composition.

The moment you put your eye up to the viewfinder, you have a choice of where you put your subject(s). In that little rectangle it doesn't seem like there are many options, but what you choose has a big impact. Are you looking to be traditional? Artsy? Bold?

You may have heard of "the rule of thirds." Basically, it is an element of design which suggests that an image is most pleasing when divided into thirds and the subject is placed where the lines intersect. See the examples below and how the subjects' faces are in, or close to where the grids meet?


The cool thing about this "rule," is that is a simplified version of the golden ratio. Have you ever seen the following?...

As we've all heard, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, this neat ratio of "beauty" stems directly from mathematics, and is seen everywhere in nature. That's right - it blends art, math, and science. Pretty neat stuff, right? This mathematical swirl is exactly why we tend to visually favor odd numbers, as well as our subjects placed toward the side of the frame in a photo. Below is one more example. The photo on the left tends to be a bit more pleasing to the eye (not to mention has more visual interest) because of subject placement being placed on the lower right third.

If you are loving the principle of thirds, there is even more to it. A little more food for thought, and that is... where is your subject looking? Is his/her body language helping or hindering your overall image? In the next two photos, I want you to notice something. She is looking the same direction in each picture, yet the two are very different. The way the first photo is cropped, she is placed on the third - but where she is looking actually draws your eye OUT of the photo. It's not the worst thing in the world, but look at the contrast. In the second picture, she is looking toward the negative space, which is in the photograph. Because your eye naturally goes in the direction where your subject is looking, make sure that place is in the frame of your picture. Make sense?

While implementing the rule of thirds really does produce a cool-looking image, that doesn't mean a picture is unattractive when the subject is placed in the middle. It's nice and traditional, and I still love cropping that way! My opinion is that while you're snapping, it's a good idea to take shots in all kinds of ways and not discount a good, old-fashioned "middle crop." When placing your subject in the middle, be sure to place equal space on all sides. The first picture in the next example has nice and even spacing around her. The second picture has her cut off at the ankle and her placement just seems... weird. "Just say no" to awkward cropping!

So... what's left in the world of composition? Well, the experimental part! I love cropping and having fun with it. Do crazy things with the subject in your viewfinder... maybe you'll like it! In this example, I had my model (my beautiful and amazing sister-in-law), close her eyes. The second is obviously my experimental edit. It's fun, and just a little crazy... but I like it! This is where you just have FUN with it.

Feel free to break the rules. I ALWAYS get fairly close to the subject and am not afraid to crop off the tops of their heads! I not only love how it looks, but I actually consider this a signature "look" of my brand. So don't be afraid to take some risks!

My last photo examples, are a review of some different subject placements. You decide which are your favorites...
(when cropping on the third in a vertical shot, I tend to favor the subject on the very bottom section - they look more "anchored" in the shot)

Well, that's it for cropping and composition! So far I've taught you about things to think about and plan before you even press that shutter button. Next month, it's time for more technical stuff! See you soon!

- Jeanna
. . . .

We are so excited to have Jeanna
here sharing photography tips
and lessons with us on eighteen25!
For more information about Jeanna
or to see more of her beautiful work
be sure to stop by Jeanna Hayes Studios.
. . .
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